Negotiate your way to a better mobile phone deal

15 January 2008

There’s one annual chore I’ve really come to hate. Given the time of year you’re probably thinking tax returns or maybe the obligatory January detox. No, what I’m having a grumble about is getting my mobile phone upgraded.

The term ‘upgrade’ suggests that in return for another year with the same supplier I should land myself a better deal. Well, not so if my experience with O2 is anything to go by.

Now I accept I may not be O2’s typical customer – as far as I’m concerned, so long as I can text and chat on a phone that isn’t so small it gets lost in my cavernous handbag, I’m happy. I certainly don’t need it to go online, listen to music or work out how many calories are in my lunch.

Ever the personal financial journalist, what matters to me is whether I’m getting good value for money and that’s where O2 upgrades seem to be lacking. Unless, that is, you put up a fight.

Now, I’ll admit that thanks to repeated negotiations with O2 over the years I am on a fairly good deal: my current £25 a month buys me 500 free minutes and 100 free texts, yet when I called in to ‘upgrade’ the best they could offer me was 200 minutes and 400 texts for £30 a month, over 18 months rather than 12. “So,” I said, “You want me to pay £60 more a year, tie myself in for longer and get less free minutes?” That’s hardly an upgrade.

So, as I have done for the last couple of years, I was forced to tell the now increasingly frustrated person at the other end of the line that I would have to think about cancelling my contract and taking my business elsewhere. Within a second I’ve been put through to ‘retentions’ where they seem to be a bit more amenable and I’m offered 400 minutes and 1000 texts for £25 a month. A better deal certainly, so I go away to research the handful of phones I’ve been offered online.

Call me a technophobe, but this is the bit I really dislike. My own phone does the job ok, and I neither need, nor want a new one. So rather than trail through several mobile phone review sites – which from my experience only serve to add to the confusion – I rang O2 back and asked what they would offer me just to keep my own phone.

It was only at this point that I was offered a really good deal – 500 minutes and 500 texts for £20 a month, plus £150 cash-back. Ok, so it did take a fair bit of huffing and puffing but it does show that if you are willing to negotiate you can get a really good deal.